Holiday (1938) starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lew Ayres, Doris Nolan, Edward Everett Horton directed by George Cukor Movie Review

Holiday (1938)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in Holiday

A Holiday to Remember

It's quite sad that it takes a movie over 70 years old to put a smile on my face and keep it there from start to finish but that is the case of "Holiday" or "Free to Live" as it is also known. More remarkably is that "Holiday" isn't a great movie, not by any stretch of the imagination, the storyline is simple and the acting from the likes of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Lew Ayres borders on the over the top, but it has an energy and a charm which wins you over and keeps you entertained till the credits appear.

When free willed Johnny Case (Cary Grant - Father Goose) finds himself falling for the lovely Julia (Doris Nolan) he doesn't realise that she is part of the Seton family, a family of a high social order and millionaires. But through Johnny's charms he wins over her father and they get engaged. The trouble is that Mr. Seton and Julia expect Johnny to conform to the Seton way and build himself a fortune where as Johnny's aspirations are much more humble. Thankfully Johnny has allies in the form of Julia's drunken brother Ned (Lew Ayres) and Linda (Katharine Hepburn - On Golden Pond) the black sheep of the Seton family who immediately warms to Johnny's free minded thinking.

Lew Ayres, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Holiday

As already mentioned the storyline to "Holiday" is simple and to be honest obvious as we meet Johnny Chase a free willed young man who finds himself falling for the rich Julia Seton. It doesn't take long to realise that Johnny doesn't fit into the stuffy world of the Seton's where life is all about status and money. And it equally doesn't take long to realise that the black sheep of the Seton family, Linda, is the ideal woman for Johnny or at least more suited to him that Julia.

But none of that matters as it is the writing which brings "Holiday" to life. It's full of clever and witty lines such as the brilliant "When I'm in a position like this I usually ask myself, what would General Motors do? And then I do the opposite.". It's this clever writing and some brilliantly crafted scenes of mild comedy which makes it all so charming. Watching Cary Grant do a back flip seems almost stupid, but in the movie it fits in with his energetic free willed persona, as does the friendship he strikes up with Linda and to some extent her brother Ned. As such the energy and humour of "Holiday" grabs you from almost scene one and although the storyline leads into a more dramatic ending still keeps you entertained when the credits roll.

But "Holiday" does have more serious undertones to all the comedy, although serious is more of an exaggeration. In amongst all this fun it does sort of bring issues to the fore about what is important in life as Johnny has to chose between his love of life and free will or the expectations of the Seton family to make money. It also sort of highlights how the expectations of Mr. Seton have affected both Linda and Ned, leading Ned to a life of drink. It's not heavy stuff, but it is a semi serious undertone to an over all amusing movie.

Whilst the clever writing most definitely makes "Holiday" an enjoyable movie it is also the performances most notably those of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Lew Ayres. Grant is just brilliant as the fun loving Johnny, back flipping in various scenes, poking fun at stuff in others and having just a lust for life about him. And as such he is likeable in a fun way which combined with Grant's good looks and legendary charm makes for a mesmerising character. Hepburn is equally as good as the highly strung Linda, desperate to break the shackles of the Seton expectations and the comedy which riffs between Hepburn and Grant is first rate. The same with Lew Ayres who may lurk around in the background as the drunken Ned but still delivers a brilliantly funny character with some depth.

So good are these trio's performances that they put Doris Nolan as Julia and Henry Kolker as Mr. Seton in the shade.

What this all boils down to is that "Holiday" maybe over 70 years old but it is still a wonderfully entertaining movie. It takes a simple storyline and through the clever writing and casting of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Lew Ayres gives it energy, charm and a brilliant streak of comedy. It's one of those rare movies which puts a smile on your face as it starts and that smile never leaves.